Aitor Karanka`s Nottingham Forest take a trip to face Chris Wilder`s Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in Saturday`s Championship fixture.
Forest`s Manager, Aitor Karanka, gave his pre-match views at Thursday`s press conference:
“Saturday is yet another tough Championship game, against a side and manager that are doing really well after winning promotion last season. They are fighting for the play-off positions, they won on Tuesday – so they are confident and will want to add more points but for us, it is another game and another step to keep going forward.
Chris has done an amazing job, he was manager of the season in League One last year and for a promoted team to be fighting for the play-off positions is amazing.
We have to approach the game in the same we that we do as any other, but the team is improving on the pitch and we are confident as we are not conceding a lot of goals. We know sometimes we will score goals and sometimes we will miss chances, but at least we are showing that we are a team and whilst we are six games unbeaten, but we need to look forward and look to finish as high in the table as possible.”
Sheffield United Team News:
Paul Coutts is the only confirmed absentee, as Chris Wilder hopes to have top scorer, Leon Clarke available after missing the last 3 games – although, midweek goal scorer, David Brooks, may not be fit for a full game yet.
Player to watch: Billy Sharp
The experienced striker is a proven Championship performer, having clocked up his 400th league start against Burton in midweek and with an average of a goal every 2 starts (203).
The 32 year old, who had a loan spell at Forest 5 years ago, has scored 13 in 30 appearances this season for the Blades and is certainly worthy of Aitor Karanka`s attention this afternoon.
Nottingham Forest Team News:
Chris Cohen, David Vaughan & Ashkan Dejagah remain sidelined by injury, but Jack Hobbs is edging closer to a return.
Aitor Karanka has been very consistent in his team selections during the unbeaten run and may well opt to stick by his players prior to the International Break, before giving Rafael Fuentes, Eric Lichaj, Barrie McKay, Liam Bridcutt and Daryl Murphy game time over the busy Easter schedule.
Player to watch: Matty Cash
Another product of Forest`s academy, the 20 year old right midfielder has started to show his qualities after missing the first half of the season with an injury.
With 2 goals (his first for the club) in the last 4 appearances, he has started to add an attacking threat to his armoury – so, let`s hope his good form continues.
Match Facts & Stats
The Blades are 7th in the table with 59 points from 37 games (w18, d5, l14 – scoring 53, with 43 conceded) and just 2 points behind 6th placed Boro & 3 behind Derby in 5th.
Only Wolves (13) and Cardiff (14) have won more home league games in the Championship this season than the Blades (11).
Forest extended their recent unbeaten run, to 6 games after a second consecutive 0-0 in Sunday`s Derby; the 4th clean sheet earned by Forest since Aitor Karanka took charge – although 7 of those 11 games have also seen Forest fail to score.
The Reds remain 15th in the Championship table, with 45 points from 37 games (w13, d6, l18), scoring 43 but conceding 54 – however, a run of 6 games without defeat and just 1 away defeat in their last 6 games has seen them solidify that mid table position.
Paul Tierney has been appointed as Saturday`s Referee, which will be his 26th game in charge this season, the previous 25 have seen him award 65 yellow and surprisingly no red cards. Last season he officiated 32 games, with a return of 110 yellows and 5 red cards.
Mr Tierney will be assisted Matthew Wilkes and Simon Beck, with Darren Drydale as Fourth Official.
The Bookies have the Blades as odds on favourites, given their formidable record at Bramall Lane – which includes winning their last 3 at home.
Although, Forest have certainly improved in recent weeks, they have not won in the Blades` backyard since 2004 and this looks to be another stern test of their defensive revolve – could it be a 3rd straight 0-0?
Aitor Karanka finally gets time to work with his players on the training ground, as the International Break means that Forest don`t play again until Good Friday (30th March), when they face Neil Harris`s Lions at The Den.